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Grant number: FT-59530-12

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Steve Newman
Temple University (Philadelphia, PA 19122-6003)

Accounting for Scots Songs in Robert Burns: Narratives of Value from the Scottish Enlightenment to the 21st-century Academy

"Accounting for Scots Songs" shows how Robert Burns' revision of The Scottish Enlightenment provides a model for work in the humanities. In Adam Smith's overlooked comments on Scots songs, he has a hard time figuring out what to do with them; he senses they are important but his adherence to Enlightenment models of progress forces him to exclude them. Burns does not reject these models but rather revises them in a more democratic key, refusing to devalue songs for their 'low' origins or their slipperiness as objects. He thus cannily reverses the role of "Heav'n-taught ploughman" assigned to him by the Enlightenment literati, mastering Enlightenment ideas so that he can reveal their limits. His ability to convince others of the value of Scots songs in Scotland and around the world by making exclusive approaches more accessible gives us a way of thinking about how we might justify the humanities to a largely-skeptical public.

Project fields:
British Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2012 – 8/31/2012